Activists say it is the first statewide LGBTQ Commission
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed an executive order on Monday, forming the first statewide commission on LGBT affairs. The commission will be comprised of executive director Todd Snovel and 40 commissioners.
The commissioners include nominees such as Chris Bartlett, the director of the William Way LGBT Community Center, activist and Democratic nominee for the state house Malcolm Kenyatta, Senator Larry Farnese, Jere Mahaffey of the Philadelphia Youth Network, state Representative Brian Sims, attorney Henry Sias, an assistant solicitor in the Philadelphia Child Welfare Department, and Amber Hikes, director of the Philadelphia mayor’s office for LGBT Affairs.
“The creation of the commission on LGBT Affairs is one step of many we have taken to ensure obstacles are removed for anyone who is facing an unfair disadvantage based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression,” Gov. Wolf said in a statement.
The Governor, and LGBTQ activits, say it is the first of its kind in the United States. While the commission may be the first of its kind in the country, it’s not Pennsylvania’s first. In 1976, then-Governor Milton Shapp formed the Council for Sexual Minorities, to find ways to put in place non-discrimination legislation and laws supporting the rights of LGBT citizens. Same-sex marriage was also discussed by the council, something that was not legal in Pennsylvania until almost 40 years later. Shapp also issued an executive order that banned employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The council operated until 1987. It brought together LGBT citizens and representatives from state agencies in Pennsylvania to meet on a regular basis. Governor Bob Casey, Sr. didn’t reappoint members to the council upon his election, despite campaign promises to the contrary.